Abnormal decline in heart rate (HR) after exercise has been linked to increased cardiac mortality. This study compares the decrease in HR in different patient types, elucidates the relation between the increase and decrease of HR with exercise, and studies the role of beta blockers on the recovery of HR after exercise. One hundred patients with coronary artery disease (CAD), 50 subjects with a very low likelihood of CAD (normals), and 21 postcardiac transplant (Tx) patients underwent Bruce protocols. Peak HR, percent of peak HR achieved, HR reserve percent, and decline in HR at 1, 3, 5, and 8 minutes were obtained for all groups and also for subgroups based on the use of beta blockers. HR recovery at 1, 3, 5, and 8 minutes differed significantly between patients with CAD, normals, and Tx patients. HR recovery at 1, 3, 5, and 8 minutes also differed significantly within the groups (normal and CAD) based on the use of beta blockers. There was highly significant correlation between decrease in HR and peak HR, percent peak HR and HR reserve percent in normal and CAD groups. After correction of the HR recovery for dependence on peak HR and HR reserve percent, the difference in HR recovery between normal and CAD groups was markedly reduced. The difference in the decrease of HR within each group (normal and CAD), based on the use of beta blockers or not, was also markedly reduced. beta blockers have a significant impact on the decrease in HR due to its effect on chronotropism. HR recovery rate is highly dependent on the chronotropic response. Hence, the main portion of the abnormality in HR recovery after exercise can be explained by chronotropic incompetence.